Another day, another deal for Billy Beane. This one has lefty reliever and longest-tenured Athletic Jerry Blevins heading to the Washington Nationals capital in exchange for minor league outfield prospect Billy Burns. Despite a few rumblings today and yesterday of a possible trade involving Blevins, this move comes straight out of the “Totally Didn’t See That One Coming” department for me. While I knew Beane wasn’t done playing musical chairs with his roster, I hadn’t anticipated the lanky left-hander being on the block. Simply put, Blevins has been one of the best lefty relievers in baseball during the past two seasons, posting a 2.80 ERA with a 7.6 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 in 125.1 innings. However, pitching is something the A’s have in spades, and it’s always best to deal from your most powerful position.
Still, this trade is a bit puzzling to me since the general consensus on Burns is he won’t be ready for the big leagues until 2015 at the earliest and all of Beane’s recent moves have been made to seemingly help the team make a run for the title next year. While it’s always imperative to think about the long-term it doesn’t run concurrent with the “Win Now” attitude the front office is displaying.
It’s also a bummer to say farewell to one of the few guys who managed to stick around for a while (seven years) when compared to the typical A’s player. He had his fair share of stumbles in the beginning, but he eventually found his touch.
Blevins was like that quiet, shy guy at social gatherings who only knows a single person in the group: He doesn’t seem like anything out of the ordinary at first, but over time he comes out of his shell and ends up saying some profound things.
So, who is this Billy that Billy traded for anyway? Burns, drafted in the 32nd round by the Nationals in 2011, had a fantastic season that resulted in him being named the organization’s minor league player of the year. Splitting time between High-A and Double-A, the 23-year-old center fielder stole 74 bags last season with a .315/.425/.383 slash line. His biggest knock is his total lack of power as Burns has just one home run in three years of professional baseball, occurring back in 2011 in Low-A ball.
With Coco Crisp set to become a free agent after next season, it’s likely that Beane made this move with an eye on giving Burns a shot to start up the middle for Oakland in 2015. His inability to slug the ball is concerning, but his speed and defense are tough to overlook. It also doesn’t hurt that Baseball America rated his strike zone discipline as the best in the Nationals’ system.
While this move was unexpected, we shouldn’t be surprised in the least. If you can bat left-handed (Burns is a switch hitter) and have a decent batting eye there’s always place for you on a Billy Beane team.